Gunfight in western Mexico kills at least 42: officials

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - At least 42 people were killed on Friday in western Mexico in a gunfight between suspected gang members and security forces, two government officials said, the latest bloodshed in an area that has been plagued by violent drug gangs. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least two federal police died in the morning clash near Tanhuato in the state of Michoacan, near the border with Jalisco, a region home to Mexico's second-biggest city, Guadalajara. The vast majority of those killed in the fight were suspected gang members, the officials said. A week ago federal forces replaced local police in Tanhuato following the assassination of a candidate for mayor in a nearby town. Jalisco, one of the engines of the Mexican economy, is the base of the Jalisco New Generation cartel, which has become a major headache for President Enrique Pena Nieto. The cartel has killed at least 20 police since March and on May 1 the gang shot down an army helicopter in southwestern Jalisco, killing six military personnel. In a series of concerted attacks that day, the gang also set vehicles, banks and gas stations ablaze around Guadalajara. The killings have increased pressure on Pena Nieto to deliver on a pledge he made upon taking office in December 2012 to bring stability to Mexico. Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party hopes to defend the slim majority it and its allies have in the lower house of Congress in mid-term elections on June 7. More than 100,000 people have died in clashes between the drug gangs and security forces since the start of 2007. (Reporting by Dave Graham, Lizbeth Diaz and Ana Isabel Martinez; Editing by Dan Grebler and Lisa Shumaker)

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